The European Union yesterday (21 April) cancelled mediation talks on resolving the political crisis in Macedonia, as tens of thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators again took to the streets of Skopje.
The EU had invited Macedonian political leaders to talks Friday (22 April) on ending the crisis that has gripped the small Balkan country for the last two years.
“We regret that the leaders’ meeting planned in Vienna on 22 April could not take place,” Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told AFP.
“We have consistently said that the breakdown of the Przino Agreement would have serious consequences for the country,” she added, referring to an accord among political leaders reached under EU auspices last year.
The country’s crisis ratcheted up a notch on 12 April when President Gjorge Ivanov unexpectedly halted a probe into more than 50 public figures suspected of involvement in a wire-tapping scandal, granting a mass pardon to those implicated.
Macedonia’s opposition said Wednesday (20 April) it would only join the EU talks if the government revoked the amnesty and postponed snap elections called by Ivanov for 5 June.
The dropped probe has triggered nightly street protests against Ivanov, while his supporters have held counter-demonstrations.
Tens of thousands in the rival camps again massed in the Macedonian capital on Thursday, kept apart by riot police backed by water cannons, an AFP reporter saw. There were no immediate reports of any clashes however.
The opposition has said it will boycott the June ballot on grounds that conditions for free and fair polls have not been met – a contention shared by the EU.
Macedonia is a candidate for EU membership since 2005, but is yet to open accession talks.
It has had close dealings with Brussels over the migration crisis, as it closed its borders to thousands of people trying to come via Greece.
“We would deeply regret any retrograde steps in Skopje that would move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession,” Kocijancic said.